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#MeToo #TimesUp – Migrant Women and Abuse

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If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please contact https://www.refuge.org.uk/ or, if you are in immediate danger, please call 999.

Earlier last week, an incredibly brave Financial Times journalist, Madison Marriage, released her story on the fundraising Presidents Club Charity Dinner, one of the mainstays of London’s social calendar for over three decades. The dinner was for men only and on the invitation list were some of the most powerful men in the British establishment.

Attending the event, were 130 specially hired hostesses. Each was provided with a skimpy black outfit to wear and were told to provide their own black underwear and high heels.

Ms Marriage went undercover to the event and reported that at the event and the after-party, some of the girls were groped, sexually harassed, and propositioned.

This report, in addition to the multiple allegations of serious sexual harassment by powerful Hollywood men such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have led to the launch of the hashtags #MeToo and #TimesUp – a show of strength by those (mostly women but some men) who have been subjected to harassment, abuse and, as Emma Thompson so eloquently put it, “pestering”.

But one group of women that fail to get a voice in this is migrants. From the abuse of those on a Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa to Asylum seekers, to those experiencing domestic violence, migrant women often need to battle for their Human Rights.

Migrant women and domestic abuse

Migrant women who have entered the UK on a spouse visa and have suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse can find themselves isolated, scared, and with no idea where to turn to for help.

Many are abused, not only by their spouse, but by his or her family.

The definition of domestic violence relied upon by the Home Office is set out in the Modernised Guidance, Victims of domestic violence (MG) as:

“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”.

In the UK, it is possible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under the Domestic Violence Rules, if you have experienced domestic abuse. To be eligible, you must:

  • Have been granted a spouse visa;
  • Have been in a continuing relationship with your spouse/partner when you arrived in the UK;
  • Be able to provide evidence that your relationship with your spouse or partner permanently broke down before the end of the probationary period because of domestic violence;
  • Meet the suitability requirements under the Immigration rules.

Dependent children can also be included in the application for ILR under the domestic violence rules. In addition, applicants who can prove they are financially destitute will be exempt from paying the fee to file the forms with UK Visas and Immigration.

Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa

The Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa allows people who are domestic workers in private households to come to the UK.

In 2016, media reports highlighted that women brought to the UK as domestic workers were often subjected to “conditions of slavery and abuse”.

In response, the Home Office introduced an “immediate escape route” by giving the 17,000 people brought to Britain each year on overseas domestic visas the right to switch employers within their first six months in the country. Ministers also extended the period that those who are found to be victims of abuse could stay in the country from six months to two years.

However, data provided by Kalayann, a campaign group for migrant domestic workers released late last year showed very little positive change had been experienced by women brought to the UK on the Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa as most were unaware they now had the right to change employer.

Female Asylum seekers

Many female Asylum seekers who flee their home country are victims of sexual, physical, and mental abuse. Women are often the victims of forced prostitution, female genital mutilation and forced marriage. In addition, human traffickers abuse many women who are making their way to a country of safety.

Human Rights Watch reported last year that female Asylum seekers in government-run, European Union-sponsored facilities for Asylum seekers on the island of Lesbos face continuous sexual harassment and never feel safe. It appears authorities are slow to take action if any of the women complain.

In the UK, The Guardian newspaper reported at the end of last year that “severely traumatised survivors of sexual violence are being routinely locked up at the notorious Yarl’s Wood Immigration detention centre, in breach of the UK government’s own policies.”

In addition, the news piece found more than 1,500 women seeking Asylum were locked up in Immigration detention centres for a long period of time, with no clue as to when they will be released.

The best Immigration lawyers in London and lobby groups continue to fight the government to ensure Asylum seekers rights are protected, especially given that research has shown that countries which do not lock up Asylum seekers are just as effective at maintaining Immigration controls.

In summary

As a law firm that has been recognised in the Legal 500 for Human Rights law, we believe it is crucial that migrant women have a voice. The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns have done an incredible job in recent months of bringing to the fore how much sexual harassment women face in the workplace. However, migrant women need a voice too. They need protection from the abuse they often suffer from spouses, partners, family members, employers, and human traffickers. More laws need to be introduced to ensure women who have fled sexual harassment and abuse are not thrown into detention centres and left unsupported, with little hope of accessing the safety they seek and deserve.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration law firms in London and is ranked highly in the Legal 500 for Immigration and Human Rights.

By making an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today.

If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123.

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